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2011 Insight Bowl Preview

Oklahoma Sooners vs Iowa Hawkeyes

For the second straight year, the Iowa Hawkeyes will play in the Insight Bowl. For the first time ever, the Oklahoma Sooners will play in the very same game hosted by Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. This bowl experience will be stale for one team and fresh for another, but both squads have something to gain when they head to the Valley of the Sun for a late-December donnybrook.

Coach Kirk Ferentz has certainly done a lot of good for the Iowa program. His unbeaten regular season in 2002 lifted the Hawkeyes to the Orange Bowl against USC. The trip to Miami marked the Hawkeyes’ first major January bowl since the 1991 Rose Bowl against Washington. Ferentz also won the 2005 Capital One Bowl with Iowa and led the team to the 2010 Orange Bowl championship thanks to a commanding win over Georgia Tech. Ferentz also led a weak 2008 Iowa team to a stunning late-season upset of Penn State, a 24-23 win which knocked the Nittany Lions out of the running for the national championship that year. Ferentz has collected a number of achievements during his stay in Iowa City, and that’s why his name has often been linked to NFL coaching jobs.

However, for all of Ferentz’s genuine accomplishments, he’s also failed to make Iowa an annual threat. The Hawkeyes snuck up on the rest of the Big Ten in their 2002 and 2009 breakthrough seasons, but when loaded with a lot of returning talent the following years, they stumbled. Iowa’s 2010 team was viewed as a national title contender, but it plummeted to a 7-5 record, losing to a lowly Minnesota team late in the season. The offense never gelled, and week-to-week consistency proved to be thoroughly elusive. Upper-tier teams in the league were able to come into Kinnick Stadium and win – Wisconsin and Ohio State in particular.

This year, things have been little different for the Hawkeyes, although they weren’t expected to go far in the Big Ten. No, the national title hopes of 2010 didn’t carry into 2011, but the end result of Iowa’s regular season was the same. Ferentz carded a 7-5 record with a late-season loss to Minnesota and a home-field loss to Legends Division champion Michigan State. Iowa is rarely the same team on a weekly basis; had the Hawks not erased a three-touchdown deficit against Pittsburgh in September, they’d be sitting at .500 right now. This game against Oklahoma gives Iowa a chance to post a statement-making win, much as last year’s Insight Bowl triumph over Missouri proved to be.

As for Oklahoma, this is a time for head coach Bob Stoops to wash a bad taste out of his mouth. Stoops has roots in Iowa – he played for the Hawkeyes and was a member of the 1982 Rose Bowl team under former coach and mentor Hayden Fry. Stoops will enjoy playing Iowa, and he hopes to beat the Hawkeyes so that his Sooners can claim win number ten this season. Oklahoma has been ravaged by injuries to prime performers such as receiver Ryan Broyles and running back Dominique Whaley, so after a few months for other players to heal (Broyles and Whaley won’t be available for this game), the Sooners hope to play well, something they didn’t do throughout the month of November.

Iowa wants to make a statement. Oklahoma wants to cleanse its palate. The Insight Bowl is not bereft of value this year.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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